Hegel haters

The objections to Hegel I’ve heard so far fall into three categories.

  1. Hegel is an obscurantist. The empty nonsensicality of his thought is concealed by his misuse of language and his needlessly convoluted arguments.
  2. Hegel lacked cohesive vision (synesis), and attempted to compensate for this deficiency through theoretical systematization. This is a view Nietzsche seems to have held.
  3. Hegel lacked awareness that his apparent final actualization of the potential of thought was only apparent. He lacked knowledge of the properties of what postmodernist thinkers call “horizon”.

It is hard for me to take the first two objections seriously. It seems to be a cynical choice to blame the author for one’s own failure to understand a work as it was meant to be understood. Instead of pursuing an understanding of the work as it was meant to be understood, Hegel himself is reduced to the status of an object of inquiry, something to observe and diagnose from an exterior vantage point. This sort of self-excusing from true hermeneutical reading (a dialogical reading that recovers the emic spirit in which the work was produced) justified by the belief that the author is a charlatan or an ideologue puts the reader in danger of listening like an ideologue, imposing his own limited fore-understanding on material that exceeds his philosophical reach, making transcendent understanding entirely impossible.

The third objection seems possibly valid. If the objection is valid, though, the question must be asked: is Hegel now refuted? or is he simply sublated, and paradoxically affirmed?


Early Nietzsche seems strongly influenced by Hegel, and it has been his more Hegelian passages I’ve liked best.

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